NGO Spotlight: What If? Foundation

The What If? Foundation allows your compassion to cross borders, so you can make a direct and immediate impact on the lives of Haitian children and families.

uoubPoverty is nothing short of an epidemic in Haiti – it is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the poorest in the world. Two out of three Haitians live on less than US $2 per day. 100,000 children under five years of age suffer from acute malnutrition. And at least 50% of Haitians age 15 and over are illiterate.

The situation is extreme. But it is not hopeless. Together with their Haitian partner, Na Rive, the What If? Foundation strives to assist Haitians with the resources they need to build change for themselves: food, education, and hope.

The What If? Foundation was created in 2000 by an American woman and a celebrated Haitian civil rights activist, Father Gerard Jean-Juste. Father Jeri, as he is known in the community, had a vision for creating a better future for Haiti: “First we feed the children, we keep them alive. Then we educate them.” They have been working with the Ti Plas Kazo community to fulfill Father Jeri’s vision ever since.

Thanks to the generosity of What If donors, Na Rive’s longstanding community food program addresses the persistent issue of food scarcity in Port-au-Prince. Every Monday through Friday, the local cooking team nourishes the community’s minds and bodies, providing as many as 3,000 hot, nutritious meal for children, parents, students, and teachers.

lkjpoiAfter many years of dreaming, planning, and persisting, construction on the Father Jeri School was completed in 2016. The school is designed to foster the next generation of Haitian leaders: children who are empowered, thoughtful, resilient, resourceful, proud of their heritage, and ready to work together for positive change. Every school day, children aged 3-19, who might otherwise have no path to an education, are engaged in a rigorous academic curriculum with teachings of respect, empathy, and civic duty. The school also houses a popular after-school program and six-week summer camp, providing children with a safe, supportive learning environment all day and all year long.

The programs What If supports have always been Haitian-led and Haitian-run: this is why they are so effective. They have witnessed the incredible resourcefulness and 

asdenduring spirit of the Ti Plas Kazo community as they create their own change, becoming a source of hope and pride for the entire country. They see a future where all Haitians can grow out of the cycle of poverty and hold the tools to create their own path. And they believe people from all backgrounds and places can come together in solidarity with Haiti, to create change one small step at a time.

To learn more about the What If? Foundation and discover opportunities to give back and volunteer to help children in Haiti, visit their website or explore UniversalGiving.

NGO Spotlight: BiblioWorks
BiblioWorks: strengthening communities through literacy and education

BiblioWorks is a nonprofit that promotes literacy and education in Bolivia. Their mission is to provide communities in need with tools and resources to develop sustainable literacy and educational programs through schools, libraries, and cultural institutions.

BiblioWorks was created in 2005 by a former American Peace Corps volunteer in Bolivia, Megan Sherar, and her brother. They fell in love with the country and decided to address the inadequate infrastructure interfering with Bolivia’s access to some of the most critical things on earth: literacy and education. Literacy and education are the first steps towards progress for every community in every country around the world.

Today, this non-profit organization is managed in Bolivia by a team of dedicated Bolivians who understand the needs of both the organization and each individual library. The local team also helps BiblioWorks stay connected with the various communities to make the libraries lively and useful; they work closely with the local authorities to focus on the needs that people express in every community in which they intervene. After more than ten years of dedication, BiblioWorks is proud to run a network of fourteen libraries in the city of Sucre and in the surrounding countryside.

BiblioWorks is convinced that literacy and education are best spread by a fruitful exchange among cultures, identities, and origins; and therefore welcome volunteers from all across the world to work with them in their varying libraries. It is a great way for people to share their differences and learn from one another. When a volunteer comes from another country, their stay in Bolivia is an opportunity to know more about a new culture and learn Spanish as well. It is also an amazing chance for the children to be confronted with diversity.

Volunteers play a great role and make a direct and personal impact on the libraries
work with. For example, if a volunteer has some dance skills, they can set up a dance workshop. Additionally, as most of the volunteers are fluent in English they can provide the kids with basic English lessons. Often, what is considered simple or usual for a volunteer can have a great value for a child and can genuinely impact their lives. When volunteers come from abroad to BiblioWorks’ libraries, everyone benefits from the experience.

The BiblioWorks libraries would not exist without the plurality of actors that participate in the life of their organization; from the board in the United States to the team in Bolivia, from the volunteers coming from across the globe to the kids attending the libraries.

If you are interested in donating to BiblioWorks or participating in a volunteer trip to Bolivia, search for them on UniversalGiving.

Empower Mothers and daughters this Mother’s Day

This piece if from the World Literacy Foundation’s blog.

Mother's Day

We ask this Mother’s Day to give a gift that will change a life – in addition to the flowers and chocolates you already bought her, give a gift of quality education to empower mothers and daughters for generations to come.

We all collectively recognize that when women and girls are empowered through education;

  • Fertility, population growth, and infant and child mortality fall and family health improves.
  • They are more politically active and better informed about their legal rights and how to exercise them.
  • Their earning capacity increases, in turn, has a positive effect on child nutrition.

Education helps women and their daughters take advantage of opportunities that could benefit them and their families for generations to come; equipping them for the workforce and grasping their legal rights.

Girls all around the world are excluded from education, or are in school but not learning the skills to equip them for the 21-st century job landscape.

This Mother’s Day, we want to change this, but we need your help. We want to support mothers and daughters by providing access to the quality education they need to unlock their full potential. Because, let’s face it, when a girl is educated, the whole world changes.  

Did you know that every extra year of education a girl receives, her income will increase by 10-20%

This Mother’s Day, support Ugandan Mothers who also want quality education for their daughters, but cannot access it.

We launched a crowdfunding initiative to empower these Mothers, have a look HERE

Make sure to spread the message and empower Ugandan Mothers by providing quality education to their children.

Support towards this initiative and share on your social channels to raise awareness.

Learn more about how you can support the World Literacy Foundation at

What do we need in literacy education?

UniversalGiving recognizes the importance of educating children worldwide. This post is by UG team member, Sarah Kenkel, who is an educator herself.

The world had its arms race, space race, and now we’re in the education race. As an English educator for nine years in the USA, South Korea, and Turkey, I have seen a wide variety of tactics and methods used to increase literacy amongst students and they all share a focus on results.

In education as in philanthropy, the people you serve must come first and you must cater your service to best suit their needs. Data collection to show your accomplishments and progress must not overtake the basic principle that the people come first. However, in this education race, as a country, we have reversed that basic structure. Test scores and reading levels are now placed as priority and the student-centered focus suffers because of it. Many students don’t read a chapter book with a teacher’s guidance as part of their curriculum until high school, because smaller, leveled readers or sections of books hit the vocabulary, grammar, and reading comprehension strategies in less time and fewer pages. Two weeks ago I taught kindergarteners the geometric terms ‘rhombus’ and ‘trapezoid’ because they are their key vocabulary terms for that week. Trapezoid…in kindergarten – and our English language learners are supposed to catch up to that. The USA has gone from a curriculum focused on quality to one of quantity.

National educational standards and the adoption of statewide curriculums by more and more districts forces them to compete in this education race. Teachers are doing a phenomenal job with the standards they have been given. It is not that the standards are too high; it is that the education offered is not meeting the needs of the local student population it serves. Not that long ago in the USA, the educated teachers and administrators of districts created their own curriculums that were specifically catered to the needs of their community. Urban districts generally do not need the Agricultural Education classes, yet the rural ones do. District choice in curriculum still exists to an extent; however, the allocation of funds towards areas that meet national standards has created budget cuts and therefore taken away much local decision-making and spending power.

So, who is doing it right? Finland. Finland is doing the exact opposite of the Western world in education and they are succeeding in vastly greater strides.

To learn more about the Finnish education system, check out this link or watch a YouTube video: Finnish National Agency for Education

So, we just copy the Finnish system, right? Per the USA’s work week, high cost and sometimes low availability in childcare, it would be difficult to implement all areas of their plan. However, we can copy, or return to the USA’s original model which was created from the bottom-up and student centered – just as we do in grassroots-initiated philanthropy.

What You Should Know About ABE Tutoring

Today’s guest post is from Mariana Ashley.

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to volunteer as an Adult Basic Education (ABE) Tutor in my local community for a year, and it was truly one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I tutored a class of four students that met twice a week for two-hour sessions. Although some Adult Basic Education programs involve teaching both literacy skills and basic math skills, the program I volunteered for focused solely on literacy instruction.

Each of the adult students I tutored read on a second to third grade level. Surprisingly, one of my students had actually made it all the way through high school reading on an early elementary school level. All of my students struggled in the workforce because of their lack of essential literacy skills. Many weren’t able to read mail that was sent to them or read menus at restaurants.

They weren’t able to do many of the things most people take for granted, but they were some of the smartest, most interesting people I have ever met. One of them had incredible knowledge of how cars work and how to fix them, and another could build a computer from scratch. Playing music by ear was a breeze for one of my students, and being one of the world’s most nurturing mothers came naturally to the student who always arrived early to my tutoring sessions and sat in the front row.

If you’ve decided to become an ABE Tutor, you can expect that your experience will be as rewarding as mine. I have to admit that some of my time as an ABE Tutor was challenging. I think I learned as much about adult education as my students learned about reading during my year as their tutor. Here are a few things I think it would benefit you to keep in mind if you choose to sign yourself up for the wonderful adventure of being an ABE Tutor:

Being an ABE Tutor Requires Dedication: Before you start tutoring students, you’ll likely be expected to attend a few trainings that will help you prepare to be a successful educator. Remember that being an ABE Tutor is a big commitment. As an ABE Tutor, you’ll probably be meeting with students at least once a week.

ABE Tutors Build the Self-Esteem of Their Students: Some of your students might struggle with self-esteem issues. Lacking basic literacy or math skills as an adult can make some people feel embarrassed. Most ABE students do best when they’re frequently offered genuine praise and encouragement. Additionally, some students will feel uncomfortable reading aloud. It’s best not to try to coerce them into doing anything that makes them feel nervous or uneasy.

Differentiation of Instruction Is Essential: Certain activities will work better for some students than others. A few of your students may learn best by playing games. If you’re tutoring any visual learners, they may benefit from you using visual aids and diagrams during your instruction. Phonics activities may work well for some students who tend to be auditory learners. You might even tutor a student who actually likes completing worksheets (like one of my students). As an ABE Tutor, it’s best to provide your students with a variety of learning activities.

Covering a Few Topics Per Lesson Works Best: It’s not the greatest idea to overload ABE students with too much information at once. It’s common that novice teachers and tutors will try to cover too much material in each lesson. Keep in mind that people learn the most when they’re exposed to the same, few concepts multiple times. At the end of your ABE lessons, it’s also a good idea to ask your students a few questions to check how well they understood the material you covered.

ABE Students Have to Balance Multiple Responsibilities: Your students’ attendance may be spotty. Your students will get sick, they’ll need to stay home to take care of their kids, and sometimes they’ll have to stay late at work. They’re busy adults with a hundred different obligations to fulfill each day. Don’t take it personally if the people you tutor miss a few lessons. And if attendance becomes a major issue for one of your students, make sure you meet privately with that student to discuss how important you think it is for him or her to regularly attend your tutoring sessions.

Adult Students Learn at Their Own Pace: Some of your students will grasp concepts quickly. Others will need more exposure to concepts before they fully understand them. Don’t necessarily expect overnight results for any of your students. Learning to read or learning basic math concepts is difficult, especially if you’ve struggled with doing so your whole life. So, as a tutor, you just need to keep on trying, do your best, and act as a positive force in your students’ lives.

According to some estimates, around 14% of people in the U.S. lack basic reading skills. This means that a good portion of your community could be lacking the literacy skills necessary to thrive. If you have the time to fight illiteracy in your community, I hope that you’ll consider becoming an ABE Tutor and consider the information above if you do become one.

Mariana Ashley is a freelance blogger who primarily writes about how online education and technology are transforming academia as we know it. Having spent a good portion of her professional career trying to reform high schools in East St. Louis, Mariana is particularly interested in how online colleges in Missouri make higher education a possibility for students of all backgrounds. Please contact her at if you’d like to discuss this article or education in general.